The Struggle for LGBTI Rights and Social Justice in Nepal

The Struggle for LGBTI Rights and Social Justice in Nepal

  • मंगलबार, असार ३ २०७१

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Kathmand (Pahichan) 17 June 2014 – The end of the monarchy in Nepal in 2007 came along with the introduction of several new laws including the legalization of homosexuality. Moreover 2008 was a year of significant achievements for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexual (LGBTI) people in Nepal because finally, the government indicated their intention to introduce full marriage equality. Momentarily a seven-member committee is looking at the possibilities of same sex marriages but first they need to look into the rate of success of same sex marriages and the laws in other countries. However there is still a fight going on for equal LGBTI rights and social justice. Richard Bennett, representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal urged the state to enact new laws to accord equality against members of sexual minorities.
Gender-based discrimination is still a problem; especially the ´third gender´ is susceptible for discrimination. According to the annual report of the Blue Diamond society, a third gender person can be described as a person whose gender, identity, expression or appearance does not fit in conventional expectations of male or female. The term represents a wide range of non-conforming gender identities or behaviours. This kind of discrimination is a relative newcomer in human rights violations and establishing third-gender rights as human rights remains a struggle. Moreover because this kind of discrimination is deeply embedded in structures of religion and culture, the prevention is even more difficult considering it requires major changes in families and society.
The human rights organization Blue Diamond Society seeks to represent LGBTI people in Nepal, It was founded in 2001, by Sunil Babu Panta who is now the first gay Member of Parliament. The Blue diamond society strives to get more attention for sexual minorities by providing education and doing media campaigns. Along with these initiatives there is a daily radio show from 4 to 5 p.m. on Their central matter is ´´We need justice, dignity,
Despite the growing knowledge of sexual minorities, there are pressing legal matters that many LGBTI activists in Nepal feel still need to be remedied. Most of all they want gender-equality and social justice for LGBTI people. According to Human Rights Watch, right now the government is inactive in prosecuting discrimination and violence against sexual minorities which leads to policemen having the feeling they can do anything because there will be no consequence. This is primarily the case for transgender people, whom are still stigmatized and discriminated. Where social acceptance for the homosexual community is nearly accomplished, for transgender people there is still a lot to overcome.
In 2007, Nepal´s TOP directed the government to secure the rights of the LGBTI community. The Supreme Court also included ´´they should be allowed to enjoy all the rights defined by national and international human right laws´´. The government took the first step in working towards gender equality by recognizing third gender identity, but people who apply for certificates marked third gender have to wait a long time until they receive their papers. In the meantime it is hard for them to apply for jobs, passports and open a bank account.
Nepal´s LGBTI movements want to ensure that rights are implemented in the reality of people’s everyday lives and that third gender rights will be included in Nepal´s new constitution which is currently being written. The LGBTI community has been demanding further inclusion in the new constitution which will be drafted by the Constituent Assembly. The LGBTI members have also been forcing the Constituent assembly to ensure that their rights are protected while drawing the new constitution.
Even though Nepal is the only South Asian country to recognize third gender rights, this does not mean there is no social stigma many third genders feel. A lot of people still think being ´gay´ is something of the West and as the Maoist used to call it ´´a product of Capitalism´´. Fortunately the Maoists came around and now claim to support the LGBTI community but Nepal has still a long way to go before it comes to terms with new realities. It remains a taboo to talk about homosexuality in public but there is a good platform to raise the issue.
The difficulties of Nepal´s sexual minorities is outlined in a short 10-minute documentary called ´´Out of the Closet´´ produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and non-governmental organizations such as the Blue Diamond Society.

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